The Environment Bill is the work of many to ensure the UK has a robust and ambitious legal and policy framework in place to protect and improve the environment in the future, writes Pat Jennings, head of policy, knowledge & external affairs at the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management.
OPINION: At CIWM we welcome the publication yesterday of the Environment Bill by Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers, following its inclusion in the Queen’s Speech on Monday (14 October).
At an overarching level, the Bill, which runs to 244 pages, sets out a framework for future environmental ambition and accountability and puts the Government’s 25 Year Environment Plan on a statutory footing. It includes proposals to create an Office for Environmental Protection (OEP) that will provide a governance and enforcement framework to replace that currently provided by the European Commission and the Court of Justice of the European Union.
It also seeks to ensure that key environmental principles enshrined in various international agreements, EU Treaties and environmental legislation have a legal standing and continue to underpin environmental law and policy-making in England for devolved issues and UK-wide for reserved matters.
The Bill also contains proposals and enabling powers across four environmental priority areas – nature and biodiversity, air quality, water, and resources and waste – and is critical to the delivery of a range of policy proposals currently being developed and consulted on with the resources and waste sector.
The Bill contains the enabling powers needed to deliver the ambitious policy measures set out in the Government’s resources and waste strategy – from Deposit Return Scheme proposals and Extended Producer Responsibility for packaging and other waste streams through to future resource efficiency standards for products and clearer labelling on packaging so consumers know what they can recycle. It also includes powers to deliver a step change in the provision of waste data and strengthen the regulatory regime to crack down on waste crime.
It also lays the foundations for a new and robust governance framework through the Office for Environmental Protection
It ensures that key environmental principles that have underpinned the legislative framework for the resources and sector for over two decades – including the polluter pays principle and the precautionary principle – sit at the heart of decision making across government in the future and commits to the development of legally binding environmental targets. It also lays the foundations for a new and robust governance framework through the OEP to uphold environmental and climate change law and policy commitments after EU exit.”
While the future of the Bill remains uncertain in the current political climate and there are still important points of detail to be clarified, particularly around the OEP’s independence and funding, the publication of the Bill is a clear and welcome signal that the environment remains at the top of the political and public agendas. It is the result of a prolonged period of hard work by Ministers, policy officials and stakeholders across the environmental sector to ensure that the UK has a robust and ambitious legal and policy framework in place to protect and improve our environment in the future.